Fake news, media literacy, and your story

Thanks to Donald Trump, fake news is all the rage lately – literally. I’m talking about the real meaning of the word “literally,” not the fake one even the dictionaries are resigning themselves to since nobody seems to care about the truth. Exactly what is fake news? A local library held a panel discussion with media representatives that I hope everyone in the entire room plus the standing-room-only overflow room plus those watching the live stream on YouTube took to heart. It was such an important discussion that I’m going to summarize what they said, and also add a few comments of my own.

The program was moderated by Betsey, a retired Fox News anchor, with panelists Carol and Alvin, both with distinguished careers on TV and radio as well as with print newspapers; Julie, a professor of media literacy; and Don, a journalist and professor of media law, and the editor of a weekly newspaper.

Betsey started off by saying fake news is not new. She remembers it during the Vietnam War, and I’ve read we had it back during the Korean War, thanks to the then owner of Time magazine. Betsey reminded us our government, of course, has its own spin doctors, like all governments do. This is why we like to have a variety of professional media watchdogs who are not all owned by the same corporation, especially by a hands on type (hello, Sinclair). We want trained professionals and not your neighbor on his personal blog. Reporters are not perfect, but they can be held publicly accountable by media peers and their audiences and will lose their jobs if they outright lie. Carol reminded us there is a big difference between reporters and pundits.

So fake news is disinformation spread on purpose–for fun, to advance an agenda, or to attract readers and therefore make money. It is not news you don’t want to hear because it is against you or goes against your personal bias. If you are a smart person interested in the truth, you will not get all your news from one source—or only from sources slanted to your beliefs. You will not believe everything you hear about a situation unfolding, because no one actually knows what’s going on and people start speculating or giving one point of observation. The truth can take a long time to come out, so avoid pointing fingers and assuming. You will check sources to make sure they are not trolls or full of obvious bias. If a topic is controversial, a good news source will tell the whole story or explain both sides of the story.

Carol and Julie brought up points pertinent to the recent Facebook brouhaha. What you look at and post about on social media dictates what is fed to you. Google knows what you like and will show you other articles (and advertising) that it thinks you will like—news slanted to feed your bias. Also, news sources need ad revenue to exist, so we often  see emotionally charged headlines or clever titles used as click bait. Beware of articles and headlines that make you feel upset, because they are often slanted or not telling the whole story. Julie says to understand the point of view of the news source so you can be an aware consumer. Do not read or believe only what you want to believe. Don said do not be a person who thinks “this is my side and I’m sticking to it.” Open your mind, take everything with a grain of salt, and do your research! Don’t be a puppet.

How does this relate to life story and memoir writing? Your stories may have an agenda, too. How are you going to spin your story? Will you make yourself perfect? Will you make yourself a victim? Will you blame someone for all your troubles? Will you write someone as all bad? When you read other peoples’ stories, check for obvious bias and if the author is telling you what to think. Tell the truth as you know it, but let’s look at the whole truth, even if you don’t want to believe it.



About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
This entry was posted in lifewriting, memoir writing, storytelling and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fake news, media literacy, and your story

  1. I view Fox News as biased, verging on propaganda, not journalism. In my view it has helped tear this country apart. There are many people who watch nothing but Fox News and they are changed by it. I’m wondering why you gave only first names of those on the panel. I’m a librarian who also studied journalism, and I would not recommend Fox as an unbiased source. Having a former Fox anchor as the moderator of this panel would be a problem for me. I realize there is a difference between a reporter and a pundit or a commentator, for example. But, still: Laura Ingraham and her recent comments to David Hogg on Fox? And how many guests did Fox host who said that Obama was not born in this country? Part of the issue, in my view, is that we no longer have the Fairness Doctrine.

  2. Hi Valorie, thanks for your perspective. The panelists are local media people so their names won’t mean much to those outside their limited viewing/reading area, but I included the promo poster for those who really want to see. I was standing in the overflow room and could not ask questions – there were a lot of questions from the main room, and I did not stay to hear them all. I would have asked why some mainstream outlets supposed to be objective allow obvious bias. Fox News programming does show its bias, and we know conservatives love it, so we know what we’re getting into by watching. The former Fox anchor also adamantly said we should NOT get our news from one source. And by the way, that’s Betsey Bruce who has won a prestigious St. Louis Press Club Award, and the city is liberal.

    I do not listen to radio or TV talk show hosts – these folks are basically entertainers going for the ratings, and the emotional and controversial ones are playing us. I am a reader of unemotional news articles and I research to learn both sides of a story. What media types say on their personal social media is their opinion, reader be aware.

    The panelists did talk about the Fairness Doctrine and how difficult that would be to enforce these days. All of them said that. The Doctrine was overturned once cable news came into being, since people then had many news sources available to hear all sides – if they cared to do so.

    For anyone who wants help to see the bias level: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/

  3. I studied the Fairness Doctrine in grad school. Your take on its overturning is a tad simplistic, and many believe it was not a good thing – perhaps it has ultimately contributed to below: And we know what we’re getting into when we watch Fox? Really? I think Fox is doing grave damage to our country:

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